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Behav Brain Res. 2008 Sep 1;192(1):124-36. doi: 10.1016/j.bbr.2007.12.026. Epub 2008 Jan 6.

The problem of relating plasticity and skilled reaching after motor cortex stroke in the rat.

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  • 1Canadian Centre for Behavioural Neuroscience, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. Whishaw@uleth.ca


The plasticity of the nervous system is illustrated in the many new neuronal connections that are formed during the acquisition of behavioral skills, loss of function after brain injury, and subsequent recovery of function. The present review describes the acquisition of skilled reaching, the act of reaching for food with a forelimb, and the changes that take place in skilled reaching following motor cortex stroke. The review then discusses the difficulty in associating plastic changes with specific aspects of behavioral change. Skilled reaching behavior is complex and consists of a number of oppositions (stimulus response relationships), between the rat and the food target, a number of forelimb gestures (non-weight supporting movements), which are performed to obtain food, and a complex series of segmental movements (of the limb, head, and trunk), all of which influence the success of the act. Measures of these four aspects of skilled reaching behavior following motor cortex stroke reveal that there are a number of learned changes that take place at different times, including learned nonuse, learned bad-use, and forgetting. The widespread dendritic proliferation, axonal growth, and synaptic formation that take place both before and after stroke are difficult to precisely relate to these behavioral changes. Whereas plasticity is usually proposed to be associated with improved performance it is suggested that future work should attempt to better relate plastic changes to the details of behavioral changes.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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